My Week in Movies: December 3 - December 9

by lauren atkinson

This was a lighter week for movies with only two movies being watched. 

The Revenant (2015)
Prior to watching this at home this week, I had only viewed The Revenant once before in theaters. Although I enjoyed the movie in theaters, I had a not so great experience of sitting too close to the screen. So watching this at home proved to be a better experience. 
The director Alejandro González Iñárritu has an interesting range of filmmaking and I'd say that the only common thread is that many of the stories are grim and have hints of supernatural/metaphysical plane involved. 
There's a reason that DiCaprio finally got his his Oscar with this one. He plays emotional, apathetic, tough, and quiet all so well in this film: it is his most dynamic performance. 
This gets 4 stars for me. It is one of the most beautifully shot movies of recent years. 

Sun Choke (2016)
This was a rough watch. A rough watch that I loved.
Our main is a twenty-something year old suffering from psychological trauma and under the watch of a caretaker is going through some...interesting holistic treatment. 
At the start, I was unsure whether to be sympathetic towards the main character but as the story unfolds, I felt a disconnect from both the main and her nanny as they both carry darkness and disturbing habits. That only further rang true as the movie progressed. 
This takes you on a slow but wild ride where at first you are hoping for vengeance and then you are looking towards relief. 
I give this one 4 stars for originality, cinematography, and pure creepiness. 


Throwback Thursday: Pictures from the past few years

by lauren atkinson

Not sure what it is about the holiday season, but it always has me reminiscing of where I've been and all that has happened in the past few years. It got me scrolling through photos and I figured I'd share simply the photos from December 7. 


On 12/7/16 Jesse sent me an Usagi and Luna funko pop to my office. It was a cute surprise and this now sits on my desk at home. She's the guardian of my work habits, too 😊




Nothing has changed. I take a lot of pictures of my food now and did then as well. This was captioned as being a salad made with leftovers. A "kitchen sink" salad, if you will. 



This is just a shot of our livingroom. It's changed so much from 2014 -- we had just moved in and knew that we finally had a more permanent place to live but hadn't really spent the time decorating to our liking yet. I remember that our apartment (especially the livingroom) still felt like a hodge-podge of furniture and wall decor but there wasn't much that we absolutely loved. Looking back on this, I am glad we've taken the time this year to really decorate our apartment exactly as we want it. We've also gotten rid of so much clutter: looking at this picture, all I see is mess (I know, that's just me) 



Ahead of the holidays in 2013, I was eating extremely clean. There was a point where about 75-80% of my meals were raw foods. It paid off because I was in great shape and felt good. Looking at this encourages me to get back to eating clean but not taking it to such extremes. 




And finally, a selfie. This is actually the oldest picture on my instagram too and was posted in March. Looking through my photo library, however, it's conveniently taken on December 7. I look younger, of course, but not that different really 


My Week in Movies: November 26 - December 2

by lauren atkinson

A new thing that I am starting is to watch as many movies as possible in a week. I've been focusing my attention on de-stressing and taking time for myself throughout the week. Part of this is breaking up routine with things that I enjoy. The best break for me is watching movies.

In the coming weeks, I will re-watch old classics, see new horror and experience recent releases. The goal is to not watch only new movies but to also watch films I haven't seen in a while.

I will post brief impressions and reviews here... if you hate spoilers, better to not read (although I will keep them to a minimum)

This week:

What We Become
A Danish zombie movie. Slowly everyone in a smalltown becomes quarantined and it is unclear who is infected and who is clean. 
This sticks to every zombie method: bleak apocalypse. 
Spoiler alert: this doesn't end as happy as most zombie movies. That's the calling card, in my opinion. 
The effects (makeup, practical, digital) were all solid -- but I do wish there were more of them. 
2.5 stars. Although I really enjoyed the plot and the visuals, this lacked anything special. 

A Dark Song
A grieving mother consults an occultist in an attempt for vengeance. The occultist takes this woman through rituals in order to see her son. 
This is cinematically... pretty. The sound is fantastically eerie and the dialogue is solid. The part where this one lost me is with some of the visuals of the alternate realms and explanation of the rites. At points, it was unclear which part of the ritual the two were partaking in and it left me questioning that instead of paying attention to the plot unfolding on the screen. This was both distracting and made the pacing feel to loose. 
2 stars. The plot was original and although visually stunning, the ending felt rushed and lackluster. 

The Babysitter
Comedic gore gold.
Parents go away for the weekend quite a bit and leave their preteen son with a hot, feisty, yet super sweet babysitter. She's seemingly attentive except...The Babysitter has a dark secret: she's the leader of a pack of satanists. 

I love this Babysitter: she's relatably nerdy and a babe, yet makes deals with the devill. Lots of references to cult classics: red bikini-clad babe in the family pool à la Fast Times at Ridgemont High. A sequence of the babysitter and preteen acting out western shoot-out scenes from Billy Jack. Arguments about Star Trek. A preteen boy watching his babysitter play a round of spin the bottle. Human sacrifice...

I adore this one. 4 stars. It's original, smart, and fun. Highly recommend if you're into comedic horror. 

The Imitation Game
I am behind the "game" with this one, but here we are. 

This movie is pretty... standard. It's somewhat predictable and simple except for Benedict Cumberbatch's Alan who is exceptionally played. Alan's story is more important and compelling to me than the main plot thread. 

My love of horror films

by lauren atkinson

I un-ironically, unapologetically, love horror films. And not just the good stuff: in fact, I love the cult classics and dumb stuff almost as much as the "intelligent" films. I have a lot of fun memories around watching movies with friends and family. But horror movies, I remember vividly. 

There is an adrenaline rush that makes watching a movie not only mentally engaging but also a physical entertainment. 

As someone with anxiety, this might seem a bit contradictory to what you'd expect. An unexpected physical reaction to something can be emotionally triggering to some. In many ways, the feeling that I get from watching a horror movie is somewhat therapeutic: it's like I am taking all of the anxiety that normally results in a migraine or muscle pain and channeling it into something that is temporary and even, rational. 

it's ok to be afraid and nervous about someone lurking in the corner and it's also ok to freak out over a client meeting or presentation of a big project. But I don't want either to eat me alive.

Horror movies give me the ability to engage with something nerve-racking and come out on the other side unscathed. That's what appeals to me. I come out knowing that everything is ok -- at least for me. 

I can remember the first time I saw a single scene of a horror film: it was Child's Play, the scene where Chucky strangles Mike as he's driving. There was a made-for-tv edit that was playing one Saturday evening. I remember my mom was at a bible study and my dad was channel surfing. He kept it on, thinking I wasn't watching, then when he realized I actually was, he quickly flipped the channel and said "Sorry, thought you were in the other room." Let's be honest, that really didn't leave a mark.

The first full movie I saw was Poltergeist, followed by Children of the Corn in my friend's basement when I was 11. The whole time that I was watching, I felt like an outsider as I was focused on the humor of both movies. To this day, I can still quote most of Poltergeist and take every opportunity to watch it once a year. 

One of my high school boyfriends and I had a movie marathon one year on halloween weekend: Freddy v. Jason, Jason X, Friday the 13th VI. I remember walking home from his house and making a mental note to revisit my favorite killer, jason voorhees, soon. 

Luckily, I visit him often now. 




One night, my best friend and I sat down and watched The Ring and the original Texas Chainsaw in the basement of my parent's house. She spent the hours after huddled under the covers as I attempted to convince her that there were more movies I wanted to watch. I was on a roll and my heart was racing for more.  That ended up proving futile and I allowed her to pick another movie instead, ending the evening on a rom-com. 

The first time I watched Saw was at my crush's house. His family had one of those impressive theater rooms in their basement. (for context of our evening: this was not a date. I was definitely the cool girl he watched movies with: After Saw, we also put on Irreversible and Mulholland Drive. Far from date night movies.) After our movie marathon, he lended me his copy of Saw on VHS and I drove home, proceeding to watch it three more times that weekend. 

I accidentally watched Skeleton Key in theaters in 2005, when I had gone into the theater to see a comedy (I want to say it was 40 Year Old Virgin, could be wrong) and walked into the wrong movie screen. I started watching and kept watching, knowing it was the wrong movie. (Although, I now regret my choices -- should've left for the intended film)

Prom night, I didn't party. Instead, my group watched Seven in the living room of my good friend's (a Belgian exchange student) host house while eating mini donuts and pizza.

Each week, I am searching for the next movie to be an outlet for my pent up anxiety. Do you have any horror favorites? 

Vibrant Hair Care

by lauren atkinson


If you've been here longer than five minutes, you'll know that I change my hair color a lot. I've achieved these colors both in salon and at-home and I've learned a lot along the way. In a "do as I say, not as I do" manner, I wouldn't ever recommend someone color their hair at home. There are a number of reasons, main ones being that if you screw up, it could result in permanent damage to your hair cuticles and really, that's not something anyone wants.

This post is not about how-to dye your hair. This is about maintenance -- ways that I keep my color-treated hair healthy and vibrant. I'm going to give a typical disclaimer: I am not a licensed professional but I am going to give what I personally do because I get asked questions every day on how I manage my hair. I've had just about every color of the rainbow at this point. 

Leave the lightening to the professionals
Vibrant colors require light hair. If you do not have a nice base for the color, consult a professional. Lightening your hair at home can have really terrifying results if done incorrectly. It's also incredibly harsh. Let's put it this way: you are working with chemicals. Are you a chemist? No? Well, your hairstylist pretty much is. Your hair isn't the place for science experiments so don't do it! 

Color depositing conditioners
It is important that when you wash your hair, you condition it as well. Shampoo opens the cuticles of the hair, conditioners seal them -- which keeps your hair healthy. If you like science, I would highly recommend this article. We all know that colorsafe hair treatments exist and have for a long time, but what some do not know is that there are now products that deposit color safely without using dye. This is less work for you -- you don't have to dye your hair every week to keep it vibrant.

I personally use Overtone. Overtone deposits color back into your hair while conditioning it. And the biggest benefit: no longer do you as a vibrant-haired person have to rinse in cool water! That's right, overtone allows you to keep your vibrant locks while washing and conditioning with warm water. 

Wash your hair -- but don't overwash it. 
Really, going 3ish days without washing your hair is one of the best thing that you can do for your color. And use a shampoo that is gentle on color: I like Unite Moisturizing Shampoo as it's both color safe and vegan :)

Use a silk or satin  (or similar alternative fabric) pillowcase
They come with a high price but not only do these pillowcases prevent breakage, they also aid in taming bedhead between washes. Two of my favorite options are Slip (which is silk, so non-vegan) and Savvy (which is satin and vegan!)


Happy World Vegetarian Day!

by lauren atkinson

I have been abandoning my food friends that normally visit: Sorry friends! I promise that it wasn't without reason...

I am working on some recipes that will be coming soon. As a sneak peek, here are pictures of some of the things that I have been cooking lately:

These pictures (and more) can be found on my Instagram, so be sure to follow me there! 

I am really excited to get back into the swing of posting more regular recipes and hopefully, this time around, the image quality and content is even better. But enough of the excuses, let's get to the real post...

I get questions a lot about my vegetarian diet. The why, what, how. So I figured that in honor of World Vegetarian Day, I would answer a few of those.

"When did you start eating a vegetarian diet?"
The first time I started eating vegetarian was 2004. From 2004 to late 2006, I was eating strictly a vegetarian diet.
From 2006 to 2008 I would eat meat occasionally and didn't have a definition for my diet -- I didn't cut out anything from my diet or restrict foods. During that time, I realized that not only had I gained an unhealthy amount of weight, but the foods I was eating made me feel sick. I was also battling my iron deficiencies the most that I had in a long time, believe it or not. In fall of 2008, my husband and I decided we needed to make some drastic changes to help our health. It started with a plant-based, whole foods diet that was restrictive and we added things back in as we wanted. 
I am very clear to say that I am EATING VEGETARIAN and not living a VEGETARIAN lifestyle. In my mind, those are two very different things.

"So what exactly is your diet?"
My diet is mostly plant-based. I try to avoid processed foods, dairy, eggs, and meat substitutions where possible. However, I love cheese and right now, that is not something that I've restricted from my eating habits. But at home, you will find me cooking mostly dairy-free and egg-free. 

"Why vegetarianism?"
I'd like to say that it is strictly an ethical and political decision, but it's not. Yes, there are plenty of ethical and economical benefits of being a vegetarian and eating a plant-based diet, but that's not the main reason that I am a vegetarian, in all honesty. 
I'm a vegetarian because it's what works for my body and what makes me feel good.
You will likely not find me pushing my eating behaviors on others, although I would love to see people eating more plant-based diets due to the positive impacts that it could have environmentally. 

"But do you even eat enough?"
I can confidently say that I am getting enough nutrition through a plant-based diet. Someday soon I hope to get into the specifics of how I manage and track this, but the short answer is this: Yes, I get enough protein. Yes, I sometimes need to supplement. And yes, my doctor is aware of my eating habits and lifestyle.

But now I'd love to hear from the vegetarians out there: why are you a vegetarian and what are the best things that have come from vegetarianism? 

Look forward to more in-depth posts coming soon about all of the above topics! 


The Demons That Aren't There

by lauren atkinson

As a child, there are usually one or two places that you're afraid of going -- often times out of some irrational fear. 

For me, one such place was the hallway between my grandparents' kitchen and the backdoor. There's nothing there that's scary nor did anything happen that should make me afraid of it. In fact, looking back, that should have been a place that I frequented -- my grandparents' cat would hide herself there under the floor shelving that held the laundry detergent and cleaning supplies. But anytime I needed to go out the backdoor into the yard, I'd find myself flipping on the light (even in the daytime) then before even stepping into the hallway, contemplating how quickly I can open the doorknob and be outside.

Another place is confidently with reason. It had demons that weren't actually there. 

Growing up, my family attended a small church in suburban metro Detroit. The attending population of the church was about 50-75, depending on the drama going on -- who slighted whom by not inviting the other to their son's birthday, what person talked about the other behind their backs, and more burning: what teen was sleeping with an adult. It was the type of place that due to its size was more of a dysfunctional family than anything else. 

Growing up in the church, you spend a lot of time in the physical building. You take naps between services, under the sanctuary pews. You associate the smell of Foldger's coffee with worship songs and you know which churchlady will give you candy if you're quiet during service. You also hear things and people tell you stories -- but instead of ghosts or urban legends, you get demons and tales of their defeat.

One of my friends growing up was a pastor's son. And one time, he told me that he saw a demon in the basement of the church. We were 7 years old. Even as an adult, it was per that story, I was afraid of the church basement. I spent some time interning there and just like my grandparents' hallway, I'd flip on the lights before stepping down the last stair, and contemplate how quickly I can get to the other side of the basement to the safety of the office. 

But nothing ever happened in that basement aside from memories. Some haunting, some that cause a smile. But none that caused harm. The demons that stuck with me from that basement were not phantoms, they were the gossip of peers and lies. Many things happened there: love affairs between teens and their youth leaders, gossip about divorce, and lies about pastors abusing their wives (never happened, but caused a fuss) Then the torment of growing up a kid in the church, hoping that the teasing and bullying that happened in the schoolyard wouldn't be met at the feet of Christ, only to find that bullying is worse when God is watching.

Looking back and having distance from both places -- from the stories and irrationality -- there is some perspective: 

There are "demons" most places, but they aren't the ones that creep in basements or spook you in the hallway, they're the ones that live inside of people. People do terrible things not phantoms.